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How Social Security Determines Disability

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Finding yourself either out of work or maintaining limited work due to an injury is something no one asks for. To supplement your decreasing income, the logical solution would be to apply for Social Security disability with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Even though it may seem like a routine thing to do, the process is anything but. It requires months or even years of patience and dedication. All that patience and dedication may not even lead to a disability award in your favor. This begs the question: how does Social Security determine disability?

Five-Step Decision Process

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The SSA uses the following three criteria to determine disability:

  • You cannot do the work that you were doing before.
  • You cannot adjust to any other work because of your medical condition or conditions.
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for a minimum of one year or will result in death.

All three criteria must be met for the SSA to deem you as disabled. To determine if you meet these standards, the SSA uses a five-step process.

1. Are You Working?

If you are working and your monthly income is above $1,180, then you cannot be considered for disability. The $1,180 threshold is known as proof of substantial gainful activity (SGA). Essentially, if you are meeting SGA, then Social Security believes your condition is not severe enough to prevent you from supporting yourself. If your monthly income is under SGA, then Social Security moves onto more medical-based analysis of your disability.

2. Is Your Condition Severe?

The word “severe” is trouble because how do you determine who has a more severe condition than another person? Is that possible? The SSA says that for a condition to be severe, it must “significantly limit your ability to do basic work such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering — for at least 12 months.”

If your condition is found to be severe enough, Social Security continues in their process for determining disability.

3. Is Your Condition Found in the Listing of Impairments?

The SSA has what is often called a blue book for disabilities. This is also known as the listing of impairments. The good news is if your condition is found in the blue book, the SSA recognizes that the condition you have could be severe. If the evidence in your case (exams, records, imaging, etc) matches all of the medical criteria for that condition, you could be approved without the final two steps. Even though this listing of impairments covers conditions for each major body system, not every condition is listed. If that is the case, you will continue onto step four of the process to determine if your condition is as severe of a medical condition that is on the list already.

4. Can You Do the Work You Did Before?

It may sound like a simple question, but it is not. This step is important because it involves deciding if your medical impairment(s) do prevent you from performing any of your past work. If the SSA determines that your condition does not, then you are not disabled according to their rules; however, if it is ruled that your condition does not allow you to do any previous work, then the last step in the process is considered.

5. Can You Do Any Other Type of Work?

More factors go into this step. If it has been determined that you cannot do what you previously did in your line of work, then the SSA looks to see if there is other work that you can do despite your condition. Factors such as age, education, past work experience, transferable skills, location, etc., are considered in this step of the decision-making process. If it is determined that you can do other work based on these factors, then the SSA may decide that you do not have a qualifying disability.

Hire a Muncie Social Security Disability Attorney

Throughout all of these steps, the SSA is attempting to define “disability” by their standards; however, each case is different. If your claim has been denied because it hasn’t been determined to be “severe” enough, you may have a case for experienced attorneys to pursue. Call the attorneys at Hensley Legal Group today for a free consultation, or contact us online.